Zoe Amar: Why digital has changed the game for charity recruitment

Digital means charities have to be more creative, and perhaps see recruitment as a continuous process, writes our columnist

Zoe Amar
Zoe Amar

Talk to any charity leader and they’ll tell you that one of the main challenges they face is finding great people on a budget. Could digital help solve this problem? And how is it changing charity recruitment?

As someone who’s done a lot of recruiting, both as a trustee and when in-house at a charity, I think the conventional process can be slightly analogue, involving pushing out a job description through adverts, email newsletters and social channels. Whether you bring in a recruiter or not (and I’ve worked with some very good ones), charities should ask themselves whether this broadcast approach reflects how people really use digital, and if it taps into the talented people that charity staff have in their own networks. Look at how digital has changed fundraising asks so that they are more relational. Content and stories are carefully crafted so that donors share them with their friends and family. Isn’t it time charities asked themselves if recruitment also needs to evolve?

Eve Joseph, UK responsibility manager at Microsoft, agrees that recruitment is shifting. As organisations across all sectors compete for talent, charities must be more creative about how they attract the brightest and best. "When thinking about how charities can take advantage of tools such as LinkedIn, one of the focus areas should be around ensuring your charity has a good online brand and profile," she says, "enabling you, for example, to find highly skilled volunteers."

Anu Hautalampi, digital manager at Care International UK, with whom we recently worked on a digital project to help it recruit more effectively, thinks that charities need to empower staff more. "There is a lot of buzz around the power of peer-to-peer and recommendations, as well as employee advocacy, social media champions and brand ambassadors," she says. "Providing staff with shareable content and the skills to use social media expertly will help us reach highly qualified potential candidates in their networks as well as build our employer brand and tone."

In a report it published earlier this year, Deloitte showed how savvy organisations see recruitment as a continuous process. Rather than doing a marketing push when vacancies go live, organisations are investing in regularly sharing content online that demonstrates the unique experience they can offer employees. This doesn’t need to be costly – it can be as simple as better search-engine optimisation on your website and case studies, blogs and social media posts that indicate why your charity is a great place to work, building a pipeline of candidates who are ready when you advertise a job.

There are also cost savings to be made. Donna Marshall, acting head of people operations at Age UK, says the charity has taken much of its recruitment in-house. She points out that "we have significantly reduced costs by recruiting in this way, and our team helps to ensure that through direct sourcing, headhunting and recruiting digitally as well as off-line, we have been able to attract some excellent candidates".

To deliver all of this, charities will need to prioritise digital competencies when recruiting and consider how new hires can make teams more agile. Jane Ide, chief executive of Navca, wanted her charity to be "digitally smarter, more productive overall and mobile", so it majored on social media and other digital channels to source and filter candidates for three roles. This led to strong shortlists and good appointments. "We started to see the impact straight away," she says. "The whole team very quickly moved into new ways of working and an acceptance of being truly digital in our operation. And that’s already proved its worth financially and in terms of our resilience."

Digital is changing much about the way we all live and work, and charity recruitment is not immune. Done in the right way, it can help charities of every size and budget attract the very best.

Zoe Amar is the founder of the digital and marketing consultancy Zoe Amar Communications

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